70s Hero Bill Rodgers

A couple of weeks ago, a friend forward me the outrageous and funny weightlifting site 70sbig (warning – sexism abounds on this site). The site is basically an ode to getting really big to be able to lift heavier weights. It’s funny, and I love the motif of 70s weightlifters.

Anyway, 70s big got me thinking about sports in the seventies, this was the time of the first weightlifting boom, and also the time of the first running boom, when lots of people started getting very interested in getting fit. Marathons became major events; running books were on the best sellers list, and suddenly lots of people were interested in getting fit.

I’ve been doing some research into this era in running history and love the place it holds as time when people began taking running seriously, but where the study of running wasn’t as scientific as it is today. Many of these men and women were training in a near vacuum of scientific information, they experimented in how much they run and how fast. They test different types of diets. They were their own guinea pigs in attempts to get fast. I have really only just started to dive into the history of this time, but I bet there are a lot of great stories from those times, and I hope to document some of them here every now and again.

This week though, we’ll start off a little late, with Bill Rodgers American Record 2:09:27 finish at the 1979 Boston marathon. Amazing performance.

Asked in a 1979 interview with Boston Magazine (pdf) about how he trains, Rodgers said “I’ll get up in the morning, and just maybe have a cup of coffee. Then we drive down to our store on Cleveland Circle and in the late morning, I’ll go out for a ten mile run… [I’ll usually train] at a six or six and a half minutes per mile. . . But in the evenings I will sometimes run a fast eight miles instead, at about 5:30 per mile.”

In the year leading up 1979, Rodger’s says he average 125 miles a week. Look like it paid off. Here’ s his finish:

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